When superheroes were first created, they were designed to bring children hope during the trying days of the Great Depression. Printed in comic books, children grew up on the stories of super humans who had the ability to save the world from disaster. At the same time, movies with sound were gaining steam, and brought entertainment to the masses, often for only the price of nickel. It’s no surprise that these popular illustrated stories lent themselves well to first film, and then television. The first superhero movie made its debut in American theaters before Superman was even created, but once his first comics were released, he instantly became a national treasure. The actors who played some of the most beloved superheroes have reprised their characters in various other shows, even more than 50 years after the show originally aired. Other actors have been drawn back in to the new superhero shows that are currently airing.
Lindsay Wagner – Bionic Woman | Then
Let’s take a look back and discover what our favorite superheroes are doing today.
Lindsay Wagner became a breakout star as the Bionic Women, which eventually became a spin-off of Six Million Dollar Man. Audiences were enchanted by the stories of Jamie Sommers, whose story they followed over two seasons.
Lindsay Wagner – Bionic Woman | Now
After Bionic Woman was canceled, Lindsay Wagner continued to appear in a number of different science fiction shows.
She continued her acting career with a string of TV movies throughout the 1980s and 1990s, though she slowly began to turn her attention to writing and giving self-help lectures. More recently, she has appeared in the TV show, Warehouse 13, the TV movie, Change of Heart, which debuted in 2013, and will appear as Zealphonis in the film Samson this year.
Lee Merriwether – Catwoman | Then
Lee Merriwether managed to make her television debut just as the medium was becoming popular throughout America.
She made the jump to stardom when she took on the role of Catwoman in the 1966 Batman film, which starred Adam West and Burt Ward in their TV roles. She also made several appearances on the Batman TV series. Merriwether seemed to have a knack for action roles, and returned to the genre for the television show, Mission Impossible, throughout 1969 and 1970.
Lee Merriweather – Catwoman | Now
Since her time as Catwoman, Merriwether built up an extensive resume of film and TV roles throughout the years. From 1973 to 1980, she played the role of Betty Jones, in the series Barnaby Jones.
In the mid-1990s, she began a 15 year run on the soap opera, All My Children, as Ruth Martin. Merriweather has not slowed down her career in the slightest, with appearances in a large number of TV shows and films, including 2017’s Still Waiting In The Wings.
Burt Ward – Robin | Then
When considering the 1960s children’s show, Batman, one often thinks of Adam West’s wry depiction of the title character.
However, equally integral to the formula was Burt Ward as the young sidekick, Robin, who was the counterpoint to West’s Batman in every way. Playing Robin was Ward’s very first acting job, which also ended up requiring him to perform his own stunts. Despite the inherent danger of the role, Ward was happy to continue making appearances as Robin throughout the years.
Burt Ward – Robin | Now
Try as he might, Burt Ward had some difficulty in separating himself from his role as Robin. Despite that, he did continue throughout the last four decades, finding work in films and movies that didn’t require him to solely reprise his role as Robin.
In recent years, he has returned back to Robin, often voicing the character for guest appearances on a variety of cartoons, from Robot Chicken, to Futurama, and even the children’s show, SpongeBob SquarePants.
Cathy Lee Crosby – Wonder Woman | Then
Cathy Lee Crosby came to acting as a former professional tennis star, having played Wimbledon on two occasions.
By the late 1960s, she was ready to transition into acting and won her first role in the TV show, It Takes A Thief. It may come as a surprise to learn that Crosby introduced the world to Diana Prince, better known as Wonder Woman in the 1974 made-for-TV movie, which predated the TV series by several years.
Cathy Lee Crosby-Wonder Woman | Now
Crosby luckily didn’t find herself confined to superhero and science fiction roles after she starred in Wonder Woman. She was able to book roles in both films and TV series, though she didn’t sustain a long-running TV arc during that time.
Following a 14 year hiatus that began in 2002, Cathy Lee Crosby finally returned to the screen in 2016. She was playing Nona, in the film Prayer Never Fails, about a basketball coach who was fired for praying with his team.
Nicholas Hammond – Spiderman | Then
Like many, you may have grown up seeing Nicholas Hammond in one of the most beloved classics, The Sound of Music, in which he played the eldest son, Friedrich Von Trapp.
By the 1970s, Hammond had more than outgrown his lederhosen and was ready to graduate to a spidey suit. Hammond reliably switched between the web-slinging superhero, and his more human alter ego, Peter Parker, for two years between 1977 and 1979 in the CBS TV series, The Amazing Spider-Man.
Nicholas Hammond – Spiderman | Now
After the conclusion of The Amazing Spiderman, Hammond continued on to a string of TV roles. He had a notable arc in the 1995 TV series, Mirror, Mirror, where he played Sir Ivor Creevey-Thorne.
During the same period of time, Hammond was no stranger to film roles, appearing in Paradise Road and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles. In 2014, Hammond played General Thatcher in Elimination Game, and he is set to play the role of Carver in the film The BBQ sometime this year.
Reb Brown – Captain America | Then/post_page_title]
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that before Reb Brown was an actor, he was an American football player.
His trajectory from athlete to Captain America comes across as nearly fictional, however, unlike the character he played in the 1979 TV movie, Brown began acting shortly after he finished college. He took on the role of Steve Rogers in both Captain America as well as in the sequel, Captain America II: Death Too Soon, both of which debuted on television screens.
While he still may be best associated with his superhero character, he became well accustomed to earning roles in action films over the years.
His credits include films such as Yor, the Hunter from the Future, Uncommon Valor, and Space Mutiny, during which he met his wife. Brown stepped away from acting between 1998 and 2011, after which, he made his return with a cameo as a soldier in Captain America: The First Avenger. In 2016, he played Roger Steveson in Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel.
Julie Newmar – Catwoman | Then
Julie Newmar had performance ingrained in her from an early age, given that her mother was a dancer with the Follies throughout the 1920s.
As many stars did during that time, she was trained in a variety of performance mediums, including singing and dancing. Newmar was the original Catwoman cast in the Batman TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Newmar, however, decided not to appear in the TV movie, which is when Lee Merriwether took over the role.
Julie Newmar – Catwoman | Now
After Batman, Newmar continued to book guest roles in a wide variety of television shows, from Get Smart to Bewitched. Between 1970 and 1972, she was featured in a number of episodes of the series, Love, American Style.
Newmar would eventually begin transitioning to mostly film appearances during the 1980s, which included Love Scenes, Evils of the Night, and Ghosts Can’t Do It. Most recently, she has returned to Catwoman in several animated Batman features, Batman vs Two-Face and Batman: Return of the Caped Crusader.
Eric Allan Kramer – Thor| Then
Eric Allan Kramar was cast in the role of Thor in the 1988 TV movie, The Incredible Hulk Returns with only two other film roles under his belt.
The superhero film proved to be an advantageous catalyst for his acting career, which only continued to progress after the Hulk. He was not to reprise the role again, though the character made intermittent appearances in other Marvel series. Unlike many other Marvel superheroes, Thor never quite managed to become the subject of his own series, until recently.
Eric Allan Kramer – Thor | Now
He might not have continued along the path of many superhero actors, but his career certainly didn’t suffer as a result. Kramer became a mainstay of television, with an extensive resume of roles throughout the years.
His more notable arcs include Down Home, which ran from 1990 to 1991, 1993’s Bob, and The Hughleys, in which he played Dave Rogers from 1998 to 2002. Most recently, he played Principal John Decost in 2016’s Guidance, and is currently playing Scott in Lodge 49.
Michael Keaton – Batman | Then
Though Michael Keaton got his start as an actor in television during the 1970s, he had already made the jump to a successful film career when he was offered the role of Batman in the Tim Burton adaptation of the comics.
Keaton’s portrayal represented a stark shift in Batman’s image from that of Adam West’s in the 1960s. West often played to the comedy of Batman, while Keaton and Tim Burton wanted to present a darker version of the character.
Michael Keaton – Batman | Now
With his Batman performance well received, Keaton agreed to reprise the role in the 1992 sequel, Batman Returns, though he declined to appear in a third installment.
Keaton’s film work held steady throughout the 1990s, which included roles in a number of different genres of films, from the Shakespeare adaptation, Much Ado About Nothing, to the title character in the children’s movie, Jack Frost. In 2014, Keaton starred in the critically acclaimed Birdman, and finally returned to superhero films with last year’s Spiderman: Homecoming.
Alicia Silverstone – Batgirl | Then
Alicia Silverstone became an American icon when she played Cher in the 1995 film, Clueless, a modern-day adaptation of the Jane Austen novel, Emma.
Following up the film, it was only natural that Silverstone would be offered a slate of high profile roles, including Batgirl in Batman & Robin, which was released in 1997. In this movie, Batgirl was Alfred Pennywise’s niece, who allies herself with the title characters
Alicia Silverstone – Batgirl | Now
Unfortunately for Silverstone, Batman & Robin, which starred George Clooney as the Dark Knight, is often considered to be one of the worst superhero films ever made.
For Silverstone’s career, however, it was only a minor setback, and she continued working in all mediums, from TV to film, to voiceover work. In 2017, she was featured in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, and will be seen in American Women later this year. Silverstone is also a vocal vegan, who has released books on the subject.
George Reeves – Superman | Then
George Reeves’s on-screen career began not long after the first Superman comic was created, when Reeves was cast as a character who appeared in the opening scene of the blockbuster, Gone With the Wind.
As part of being cast, Reeves became contracted to Warner Brothers for the next several years. Given that Hollywood still operated on the studio system, Reeves was contracted to appear in a large number of films, though he took time off from acting to fight in World War II.
George Reeves – Superman | Now
Despite his many other films, Reeves is best known for the work he did as Superman, who was the main focus of the 1950s TV series, The Adventures of Superman.
As his time spent in character extended beyond simply filming the show, despite the fact that he was essentially unable to work on any other long-term projects during that time. Reeves felt he should really embody the character he was presenting to children. The next planned Superman project was canceled upon Reeves’ 1959 death.
Jane Fonda – Barbarella | Then
Based on a science fiction comic book, Barbarella featured a young Jane Fonda in the title role when it debuted in 1968.
Barbarella is billed as the story of a representative from a futuristic Earth who is sent on an assignment to retrieve a powerful weapon from a villain located on another planet. Though the film received mixed reviews, it was unique especially for its time in the way that the story centered around women, as well as how Barbarella’s style contrasted with male superheroes’.
Jane Fonda – Barbarella | Now
Barbarella was just the beginning for Jane Fonda, who continues to find herself in a large number of high profile roles. During the 1980s, she earned a reputation as a fitness guru after releasing a series of exercise videos.
Fonda had a featured role in the Aaron Sorkin vehicle, The Newsroom between 2012 and 2014. From 2015 until the present, she has been starring as Grace in the Netflix series, Grace and Frankie opposite Lily Tomlin. Another season is already in production.
Christopher Reeve – Superman | Then
Reeve came to professional acting with some of the most highly regarded training, having studied at Juilliard during the 1970s.
He was cast as Superman only a few years after completing his training, earning himself a starring role in what was only his fourth film credit. Reeve was meticulous about his approach to the role, which included embarking on a serious training regimen in order to build the requisite physique. He won acclaim for his performance, which spawned several sequels.
Christopher Reeve – Superman | Now
After Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was released in 1987 and proved to be underwhelming, Reeve was done playing Superman.
In the interim, he had continued to earn big budget movie roles, including The Bostonians, which was released in 1984, Street Smart in 1987, as well as the 1993 feature, The Remains of the Day. Reeve was paralyzed in a horseback riding accident in 1995, which left him quadriplegic, though he continued acting despite the injuries. Reeve passed away in 2004, likely from a complication related to his injury.
Michelle Pfeiffer – Catwoman | Then
Michelle Pfeiffer made her acting debut when she was only 21 in the TV series, Delta House. By the time she was cast as Catwoman in the 1992 sequel, Batman Returns, Pfeiffer was a well-established star.
Pfeiffer was determined to bring more to the table than just her looks, and took on a training regimen in both kickboxing and martial arts. The results became the most well-regarded representation of Catwoman in either film or television throughout the years.
Michelle Pfeiffer – Catwoman | Now
Pfeiffer’s turn as Catwoman was just a blip in her incredible career, which continued on at full speed. At the time, Pfeiffer had also begun producing, which allowed her even more artistic freedom with regards to the roles she chose, most of which earned her further praise.
She took a brief break from acting in the mid-2000s, but has since returned with roles the musical adaptation of Hairspray, and most recently appeared in the well regarded Murder on the Orient Express.
Billy Campbell – The Rocketeer | Then
Bill Campbell was cast in the role of The Rocketeer, the title character of the 1991 Disney film telling the story of a daring pilot who finds a stolen jetpack has fallen into his possession.
The movie takes place on the eve of the second World War, and it falls to the Rocketeer aka Cliff Secord to keep the jetpack safe from the corrupt Hollywood director who commissioned its theft in the first place. Though the film received mixed reviews, Campbell’s career was jumpstarted.
Billy Campbell – The Rocketeer | Now
Campbell found his career picking up quickly after he starred in the nearly forgotten action movie, eventually winning a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series for his work as Rick Sammler on the TV show, Once and Again.
His next big TV role was on The 4400, which ran between 2004 and 2007. In the last year, Campbell has split his time between working on the TV show, Modus, where he played Dale Tyler, and is currently starring in Cardinal.
Kevin Sorbo – Hercules | Then
Dramatizing the Ancient Greek legends detailing Hercules’s trials and tribulations, The Legend of Hercules was kicked off by a TV movie, Hercules and the Amazon Woman, much like a number of other superhero movies.
Kevin Sorbo was chosen to play the title character after being passed over for the role of Superman in the TV series, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. It was Hercules’s interactions with the heroine Xena that resulted in the spinoff of Xena Warrior Princess.
Kevin Sorbo – Hercules | Now
After Hercules wrapped, Kevin Sorbo’s next big role would become Captain Dylan Hunt in the show Andromeda. Sorbo played the role over the course of five years, until its cancellation.
For the better half of the last decade, Sorbo found himself with steady film work, rather than finding most of his roles via television programs. Last year, he had roles in six separate movies, as well as short arcs on several TV shows, including This Old Machine and Let There Be Light.
David Ackroyd – Exo-man | Then
When David Ackroyd was first cast in the role of Exo-man, he was a relative newcomer to the world of film and television, after a brilliant stage career.
The film is about a professor who was paralyzed after an anonymous attack who then builds himself a technologically advanced suit in order to perform daily tasks, along with some superhuman ones. Exo-man can be considered as something of a precursor to today’s incredibly popular Ironman films, which star Robert Downey Jr.
David Ackroyd-Exo-man | Now
After his performance in Exo-man, Ackroyd was catapulted to success, which he mostly found in a variety of soap operas, many of which were still in their early days.
Ackroyd became a staple in a number of well-regarded television shows, with a significant run on Dynasty, as well as in the show After MASH, where he played Dr. Boyer. Ackroyd missed the stage, however, so he moved to Montana, where he is the Artistic Director of the Alpine Theatre Project.
Adam West – Batman | Then
Unlike most aspiring actors, Adam West’s journey to the screen was rather unorthodox, considering that he moved to Hawaii in order to be discovered, rather than moving to New York or Hollywood.
Despite a resume mostly filmed with Westerns, West was given the chance to try something new when he was cast as Batman, which he did with bravado. The 1960s show was definitely geared towards children, but West brought a dry sort of comedy to the role.
Adam West – Batman | Now
Breaking out from under Batman’s shadow proved difficult for West, who found that most casting directors could only see him as the character, which proved limiting to his career.
He did manage to win a small variety of roles that were unlike his Batman character, but ultimately, West couldn’t escape the draw of the Dark Knight. Later in his career, he began voicing his character in several animated Batman series, as well as a satirical version of himself in Family Guy. West died last year.
Dean Cain-Superman | Then
In the mid 1990s, a new take on the classic Superman story was brought to TV screens. In Lois & Clark: The Adventures of Superman, more time is spent focusing on Clark as the true identity, and Superman as the alter-ego.
Though the epic sense of adventure was preserved, the story often centered on Clark’s romance with Lois Lane in equal proportion to the stories of how Superman continuously saves the world. The series was popular among children, managing to run for four years.
Dean Cain-Superman | Now
Dean Cain seemed to be a natural choice for Superman, given that he came to acting after a knee injury caused him to retire from pro-football.
Superman became his breakthrough role, as he had mostly acted in commercials prior to being cast on Lois & Clark. After the show wrapped, Dean started a production company of his own, which he named Angry Dragon Entertainment, which produced Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. From 2013 until 2016, Cain starred in Hit the Floor as Pete Davenport. He also appeared in Supergirl.
Antonio Banderas-Alejandro Murrieta/Zorro | Then
Antonio Banderas first rose to prominence as a stage actor in Spain, before being drawn into the world of Spanish film. Though he spoke minimal amounts of English when he first came to Hollywood, his talent was easily recognized by directors.
When the 1998 adaptation of Zorro was in the process of being cast, the Spanish born Banderas appeared to be a natural fit for the swashbuckling protege of the aging hero, Zorro. By the time he was cast, he was already an international star.
Antonio Banderes-Alejandro Murrieta/Zorro | Now
Banderas continued to rack up the hits as his career progressed, while he managed to defy genre with the sheer variety of characters he was offered.
Banderas often appears alongside other major Hollywood stars, and helped popularize the character he voiced throughout the Shrek sequels, Puss in Boots. He reprised the role of Zorro in 2005, though the sequel wasn’t received nearly as well as the original. A prolific actor, this year, Banderas will be seen in the film, Beyond the Edge.
Anthony Hopkins-Don Diego de la Vega/Zorro | Then
Anthony Hopkins was far from the first choice to play the aging hero behind the mask in the 1998 production of The Legend of Zorro.
The role was initially set to be played by Sean Connery, who subsequently dropped out. By the tim Hopkins signed on, they were only a month away from beginning the film shoot. Hopkins’s Zorro is a willing teacher to his new protege, who he took on as a way to return a favor Alejandro did in his youth.
Anthony Hopkins-Don Diego de la Vega/Zorro | Now
Anthony Hopkins is one of the most highly regarded actors of all time, with a prestigious background in English theatre.
Hopkins first gained prominence as a film actor in the 1970s, though it was his role as Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs that really shined a spotlight on his talent. Hopkins received his Academy Award for the role. Most recently, Hopkins appeared in Thor: Ragnarok as Odin, and is set to star in a TV adaptation of King Lear.
Peter Hooten – Dr. Strange | Then
Peter Hooten took on the challenge of becoming a superhero when he was cast in the 1978 TV movie, Dr. Strange, in which he played the title role.
Dr. Strange is a psychiatrist by training, who ends up entangled in the supernatural plot via a woman he was caring for that had been possessed by a sorceress. The TV movie was intended as a chance to see if the character would make a popular TV series. However, CBS was unimpressed with the movie’s ratings.
Peter Hooten – Dr. Strange | Now
Peter Hooten continued acting in films that were made for both the big screen and the small screen throughout the 1980s. His credits include 2020 Texas Gladiator, as well as Born Beautiful and Just a Damned Soldier.
Hooten stepped away from acting after 1990, preferring to live away from the glitz of Hollywood. He settled first in New York City before eventually returning to his native Florida. Hooten made his comeback in 2013 with House of Blood, and was seen in Souleater in 2017.
Helen Slater – Supergirl | Then
Helen Slater made a splash in Hollywood when she was cast in her first feature film role in Supergirl. Supergirl tells the story of Superman’s cousin, Kara, who finds herself on Earth with a mission to found a lost orb.
For a newcomer, Supergirl featured a slate of well-regarded actors, including Faye Dunaway, Mia Farrow, and Peter O’Toole. Unfortunately, all of those big names couldn’t make Supergirl a success. Luckily for Slater, it would only jumpstart her career.
Helen Slater – Supergirl | Now
Helen Slater followed Supergirl up with The Legend of Billie Jean in 1985. She continued to earn film roles throughout the remainder of the 1980s, before transitioning to television with Capital News, where she played Anna McKenna.
Throughout the ensuing years, Slater mostly stuck to film, with a few television appearances scattered throughout her resume. For the last couple of years, she was sucked back into the world of Supergirl, playing the role of Eliza Danvers in the TV series based on the film that made her famous.
Lou Ferrigno – Hulk | Then
Lou Ferrigno’s background as a bodybuilder certainly came in handy when he was cast as the transformed body of the Hulk in the 1977 TV series, The Incredible Hulk.
Coated in green body paint, Ferrigno smashed and thrashed as his angry alter ego took over. At the time, his non-transformed persona was played by Bill Bixby. The two shared the role for the run of the TV series, as well as taking their character through two TV movies.
Lou Ferrigno – Hulk | Now
After The Incredible Hulk wrapped in 1982, Ferrigno was in the acting game to stay. His incredible physique continued to earn him roles in a similar vein as the Hulk, which included playing Hercules in the 1983 film, along with its sequel in 1985.
Ferrigno returned to the Hulk once more when he began voicing the character in the animated series in the 1990s. For seven years, Ferrigno was a frequent guest star on King of Queens. More recently, he was in Instant Death.
Lynda Carter – Wonder Woman | Then
Lynda Carter first gained national fame when she was awarded the crown of Miss America in 1972.
Though she wasn’t the first to play the role, she is still most often equated for her work as the super-heroine, Wonder Woman, who she played in the TV show of the same name from 1975 to 1979. Though Carter was aware she had gotten the role because of her looks, she was determined to make her performance stand out in a way that was relatable to other women.
Lynda Carter – Wonder Woman | Now
Carter has continued to have a prolific on-screen career in both movies and television, even if she is still best remembered as Diana Prince.
Carter gave her outspoken approval of the recent Wonder Woman film, which starred relative newcomer, Gal Gadot, in the title role. Though she’s since left Diana behind, she has been drawn back into the world of superheroes when she was cast in Supergirl in 2016, where she played the female leader, President Olivia Marsdin.
Lucy Lawless – Xena | Then
One of the most beloved female super heroines in history, Xena showed the world that a woman was capable fending for herself.
The indomitable Xena was embarking on a mission to save the world from those who sought to cause harm, as a means of redeeming herself for past misdeeds. The female centric show resonated with audiences, especially as it broke down many of the genre’s norms, which would eventually serve as inspiration for a host of other female lead action shows.
Lucy Lawless – Xena | Now
Though Lawless is more than happy to be best known as Xena, it hasn’t stopped her from pursuing a wide variety of other acting projects, including the short-lived Tarzan TV show, as well as a number of episodes of Battlestar Galactica.
Lawless is also an environmental activist, which has resulted in some small trouble with the law. Regardless of the wide scope of genres she’s worked on, Lawless seems most at home in action roles, appearing Spartacus, and most recently, Ash vs Evil Dead.